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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have been struggling with constant sniffing when ever I take my dog outside of the house.

He seems to get tunnel vision while sniffing the ground, so much that he is unaware of his surroundings and even me trying to get his attention and if he bumps into something or I jerk the leash, he jumps like it startled him. He jumps like this when he knows he is doing something wrong.

This leads me to believe he is aware that I don't approve of the sniffing, but he continues to do it until I physically lift his head off the ground with a foot or hands.

As soon as we go somewhere away from the house, it's nose to the ground in a mad rush forward, but still moves with me, not pulling just to the max extent of the leash.

Along with the sniffing, he also will basically drag his tongue over the ground or floor (leaving a nice wet streak).

He does this on or off leash.

This annoys me like crazy and I don't know how to correct this behavior.

He won't respond to treats and ignores clicker/commands, physical intervention is the only thing that breaks the sniffing tunnel vision.

He's an adult and not a puppy.

Is anyone able to help me get his head up and off the floor while walking/being outside the house?
 

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Sniffing is great, it works the dog's mind and makes walks a lot more interesting for them (and more tiring).

You can work to reduce sniffing to a degree, look up "Premack Principle" for concepts of using sniffing itself as a reward.

But really, if he isn't dragging you along, he isn't eating things off the ground and he just likes to sniff? That's a reasonable and natural behavior, especially if he is a hound or hound mix.
 

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I use an e-collar with 10 different settings on both momentary and continuous, a vibration mode, and a tone (I tested it on myself first so I know exactly what he feels at each level, but have never had to go past 7, and that was only in the beginning of training when he was extremely hyper and so focused that nothing else, not even all the previous stimulation levels and tone, would snap him out of it). Usually, just the tone (no stimulation) will get him to break focus and pay attention to me. Even with the stimulation, I use the lowest setting he responds to (which is how they are meant to be used, not as a punishment just a reinforcement). Usually that level is 3 but if he is very distracted with other dogs around and traffic, it can move up to a 5.

Like you, I tried everything prior to getting an e-collar (treats, leash tug, firm commands, etc.). I got one specifically with the vibration AND a tone, so I only use the stimulation when absolutely necessary. Even then, I always stop stimulation and reward with treats/kibble and praise the instant he responds.

If you do use an e-collar, definitely get a new one. The old ones (and the owners who do not know how to use them properly) gave ALL of them a bad name. The modern ones are great tools to have in your training toolbox.

That being said, an e-collar should not be the first tool you reach for, but it should not be ruled out if you are still having issues.
 

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Be aware that whatever method you use, stopping a dog from sniffing is similar to stopping a person from looking at new surroundings ... smells are changing every day.
 

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Be aware that whatever method you use, stopping a dog from sniffing is similar to stopping a person from looking at new surroundings ... smells are changing every day.
Agreed.

I should have stated in my response that I am training mine to be my service dog, therefore he needs to be attentive to me and our surroundings but not distracted by smells or other events.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I know that normal sniffing is normal, but this isn't just a dog sniffing. This is a dog that has a magnet on his nose and the floor is metal.
He knows he's doing wrong because of how he responds to being corrected, but it's like he is addicted and can't stop himself from doing it.
I know the blame is going to go this way as soon as I mention it, but he has anxiety that results in compulsive and repetitive behaviors and I believe this is one of them.
This might be something that someone would have to see to understand. I think I need a doggy psychiatrist. :-/
 

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I know that normal sniffing is normal, but this isn't just a dog sniffing. This is a dog that has a magnet on his nose and the floor is metal.
He knows he's doing wrong because of how he responds to being corrected, but it's like he is addicted and can't stop himself from doing it.
I know the blame is going to go this way as soon as I mention it, but he has anxiety that results in compulsive and repetitive behaviors and I believe this is one of them.
This might be something that someone would have to see to understand. I think I need a doggy psychiatrist. :-/
How well does he obey and respond to you when you are not on walks? It may be necessary to go back and solidify that area of training before proceeding to training outdoors. Once he instantly responds and obeys at home, away from all the distractions, then move on to more intricate and distracting areas for training. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back to solidify training. Crawl, walk, run, etc. You'll get it.
 

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I know that normal sniffing is normal, but this isn't just a dog sniffing. This is a dog that has a magnet on his nose and the floor is metal.
He knows he's doing wrong because of how he responds to being corrected, but it's like he is addicted and can't stop himself from doing it.
I know the blame is going to go this way as soon as I mention it, but he has anxiety that results in compulsive and repetitive behaviors and I believe this is one of them.
This might be something that someone would have to see to understand. I think I need a doggy psychiatrist. :-/
What breed or breed mix/guess is he?

Sniffing is never wrong per se, it might become obsessive but on the whole, the concept that a dog "knows he is doing wrong" because of his reaction or behavior when he is corrected is a flawed observation. Dogs react to the punishment, if they anticipate a punishment then they tend to offer appeasement behaviors. Which look like "guilt" but are simply a reaction to the human's expected actions.

You can redirect a sniffing dog, but be highly cautious of the idea of punishing sniffing as a behavior. It really does serve a purpose for dogs and can be very beneficial even.

A dog with known anxiety is even more a dog that you do not want to use a shock collar or physical correction on. Pain will increase anxiety generally.
 

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I try hard to train with positive and negative reinforcement rather than punishment. My dogs are so soft they act worse if I try to use punishment to change behavior.

Sassy and Max were not quite as bad as your guy but they would lunge to sniffy places and not want to leave. I decided to try clicker training and planned to count how long they sniffed on average then reward sniffs that were shorter. I didn't talk while counting they got worse and sniffed much longer. Teeny light bulb went on over my head. I started praising them when they lifted their heads and moved away from that sniffy place. I didn't even use treats, just happy words. It actually worked! They sniffed for only 15 seconds rather than 30-45 and they weren't lunging to get to those spots as it was no longer forbidden and I wasn't annoyed that they were sniffing. Well I was still annoyed but dogs don't really get sarcasm.

I went with this plan of action and now freeze when dog's nose goes down. Dog is allowed to sniff as much and as long as they like within the circle of the leash's reach. I now wait until the annoyed dog looks at me to move on. Happy words and off we go. When starting this and when in new places I do treat as well.

Try it. Take a book with you, listen to music - anything to take your mind off how annoying that sniffing is and let him do it as much as he pleases but stop walking when nose goes down. When he pulls and you don't move eventually he will look at you. It will seem like hours but time it, probably less than 5 minutes. PRAISE him to the skies, give him a treat and move on. Probably in 3 steps his nose will go back down and you freeze again. Just time the walk and when half your time is gone go home. I tend to do in and out walks so am going back over the exact same ground and usually the dogs walk faster on the return trip.
 

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I know that normal sniffing is normal, but this isn't just a dog sniffing. This is a dog that has a magnet on his nose and the floor is metal.
He knows he's doing wrong because of how he responds to being corrected, but it's like he is addicted and can't stop himself from doing it.
I know the blame is going to go this way as soon as I mention it, but he has anxiety that results in compulsive and repetitive behaviors and I believe this is one of them.
This might be something that someone would have to see to understand. I think I need a doggy psychiatrist. :-/
Just a few thoughts: First off, I'd really like to know what breed or mix he is. If this is a hound, you might have to learn to embrace the sniffing. :)

Otherwise, though, if this is truly not 'normal' sniffing you need to be aware of WHY dogs might sniff (when there's nothing to smell). First of all, it is a stress related displacement behavior. Some dogs will compulsively sniff when they are feeling anxious, so you getting angry & physically trying to 'correct' the behavior with leash jerks, etc... will only serve to make the dog MORE anxious (the scared jumping) and this will lead to *increased* sniffing.

Sniffing is also used in some dogs as a calming signal to others - they sniff the ground to diffuse tension in a situation or in others around them. So he might be starting with 'normal' sniffing, but as you get angry he tries to calm you down by -- yup! MORE sniffing!

I'd suggest starting by getting him to offer voluntary attention more dependably. Just sit with him on leash (inside at first) & don't say anything or try in any way to get his attention. Just wait. The instant he looks at you click (or other wise mark the behavior) and treat. Then play this game in a lower distraction area outside, such as in your yard or area immediately outside the house that he passes by a LOT. Just wait for as long as it takes for him to pick his head up & notice you - then again mark the behavior & provide the highest value treat you can provide. Once he starts to get the hang of this, you can provide a secondary (and even higher value reward) by 'releasing' him to "go sniff" after he has given you attention.

I'd also look into nosework activities for him to engage in. Put that sniffer to good use & make a game of it. Sometimes it really helps to have the mindset of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!'.

And, finally, if you **absolutely, positively* NEED to take him walking with his nose off the ground, you could consider conditioning him to happily wear a head halter for walks. That way you could keep his nose up when necessary - but PLEASE! make sure to allow him lots and lots of frequent breaks to "go sniff" if you do go this route.
 

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What are you goals? Simply to stop the excessive sniffing? Or to stop the sniffing altogether?

I allow my dog to sniff as we walk, but the moment his actions hinder his working ability or make me need to stop and wait for him, that is when it is an issue. He can sniff all he wants, but it cannot interfere with his duties or hinder forward progress.

Again, I'm training my dog to be my service dog, so my goals may not be the same as yours.
 

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Sassy and Max were sniffing fairly normally but when I stopped talking to them clearly they were stressed by my change in behavior so sniffed longer and more obsessively. Forbidding something makes it more desirable for sure. I was allowing sniffing but forcing them to leave. Changing it around so they knew I appreciated them leaving was a huge shift in my attitude and sure dropped their stress level.

Imagine there is something you must do but nobody approves of it? Think left handed people forced to be right handed. You are forbidding the dog to use what is likely his most important sense and he is frantically trying to get it in over your disapproval.
 

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Wait. Someone is actually recommending a shock collar to combat sniffing and inattentiveness ??? Good grief.

You're using a shock collar to train a service dog?
Apparently. Not as a punishment though, but for reinforcement .. because that is how they are supposed to be used.
 

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I let my dogs sniff all they want on walks. I would never correct for sniffing, that's cruel. It's obviously something that he enjoys doing. I have a "lets go" command when they need to leave a spot alone and carry on.
 

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I let my dogs sniff all they want on walks. I would never correct for sniffing, that's cruel. It's obviously something that he enjoys doing. I have a "lets go" command when they need to leave a spot alone and carry on.
I taught Chester a ten-second rule. If he gets focused on one spot (particularly when he is looking at a place to mark or not), I count down from 10 out loud and then say "Okay, walk on" in an upbeat but definite tone and a slight tug on the leash as needed. I can't figure if he actually understands my counting down by now or if he just has learned to judge that time frame himself, but he almost always finishes his sniffing or sniffing+marking before I have to tell him to move along.

Eva wasn't a sniffer when I got her and she's slowly developed a sniffing habit on walks with Chester (learning from the guide I guess) and it is great. Instead of pulling like a freight train the entire time, she sniffs and observes and works her little mind a bit and only pulls half the time and yet the walk ends up being more tiring for her than when she drags a person behind her for a few miles :)
 

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You're using a shock collar to train a service dog?
Only as a reinforcement. I got one specifically with vibrate and tone, so I only use the stimulation when the tone or vibration do not draw his focus away from a distraction and back on me/the task at hand.

It is a modern collar with 10 different levels of stimulation, which I also tested on myself so I know exactly what he feels at each level.

The old collars that only have the "shock the hell out of your dog" level, and the owners who have no idea how to properly use them, gave the rest of them a bad name.

I also only use the lowest setting possible for him to respond (like someone tapping a person on the shoulder when they zone out), which is usually a 3 outside. He doesn't wear collars inside the house.

The collar is NOT used for punishment, only reinforcement of a training and is followed by positive reinforcement and treats when he responds.

Just like leashes, when used properly, they are a very useful tool. However, when used improperly, leashes can also cause serious harm.
 

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Wait. Someone is actually recommending a shock collar to combat sniffing and inattentiveness ??? Good grief.
Only depending on what his goals are. I allow my dog to sniff and smell all he wants, as long as it does not interfere with the task at hand. It also has a tone and vibrate mode, so stimulation is not necessary when either of those get his concentration back on me/the task.

Improper use of any tool can be extremely detrimental and cause injury.
Yanking and pulling on a dog to get it to move or focus back on you can seriously hurt the dog.

So whether it is an regular collar, a leash, a prong collar, an e-collar, etc., proper use is necessary.
 

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Only as a reinforcement. I got one specifically with vibrate and tone, so I only use the stimulation when the tone or vibration do not draw his focus away from a distraction and back on me/the task at hand.

It is a modern collar with 10 different levels of stimulation, which I also tested on myself so I know exactly what he feels at each level.

The old collars that only have the "shock the hell out of your dog" level, and the owners who have no idea how to properly use them, gave the rest of them a bad name.

I also only use the lowest setting possible for him to respond (like someone tapping a person on the shoulder when they zone out), which is usually a 3 outside. He doesn't wear collars inside the house.

The collar is NOT used for punishment, only reinforcement of a training and is followed by positive reinforcement and treats when he responds.

Just like leashes, when used properly, they are a very useful tool. However, when used improperly, leashes can also cause serious harm.


You're either using the shock as a negative reinforcement, aka removal of something unfavorable after the display of a behavior, or as positive punishment, aka an aversive or unpleasant action in order to reduce the action it follows.

In general here at least, "reinforcement" without any additional descriptions or qualifiers is usually taken to mean positive reinforcement; aka treats/rewards/praise
 

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You're either using the shock as a negative reinforcement, aka removal of something unfavorable after the display of a behavior, or as positive punishment, aka an aversive or unpleasant action in order to reduce the action it follows.

In general here at least, "reinforcement" without any additional descriptions or qualifiers is usually taken to mean positive reinforcement; aka treats/rewards/praise
One example:

We are walking and he moves off the the side and starts sniffing an area. I keep walking, but he stays put until the leash it tight. Rather than pulling on him, I give a command and press the "tone" button which makes a beep sound as long as I hold it. The tone is like a tap on the shoulder saying "hey, pay attention." He realizes he has fallen behind and as soon as I see his concentration back on me, I release the tone. Once he is next to me again, I reward and praise him.

If the tone doesn't snap him out of it, I'll use the vibrate (which doesn't shock), if that still doesn't work, I start at level 1 on the stimulation and increase until I see a reaction, which usually happens at level 3, but I always start at the lowest setting and gradually increase so as not to cause pain or harm.
 
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